New York Times obituary writer Douglas Martin penned Tuesday’s front-page goodbye to conservative legend Phyllis Schlafly, who died Monday at the age of 92: “‘First Lady’ of a Movement That Steered U.S. to the Right.” The Times and other media outlets generally file glowing obituaries for liberal figures, but Schlafly, the winner of the 2015 William F. Buckley Jr. Award for Media Excellence from the Media Research Center, received a hostile farewell -- a literal “hatchet job,” with Martin likening Schlafly to “ax-wielding prohibitionist Carry Nation” in the third sentence
The obituary in Sunday's New York Times of an abortion activist followed the paper's standard liberal template of obfuscation when discussing unpopular liberal stands on social issues: "Joan Dunlop, 78, Advocate for Women’s Health Rights." The text box read: "A life spent helping women expand control of their bodies." Including abortion. Yet although the Reagan-hating Joan Dunlop worked for the nation's largest abortion provider Planned Parenthood, the headline and text box avoided the word.
Reporter Douglas Martin also avoided stating "abortion" until paragraph seven, emphasizing other aspects of Dunlop's career:
In the Sunday New York Times obituary for liberal Democrat 1984 vice-presidential nominee Geraldine Ferraro, Douglas Martin presented her as "hounded" by sexist anti-abortion conservatives who would metaphorically persecute her to death:
The abortion issue, magnified because she was Roman Catholic and a woman, plagued her campaign. Though she opposed the procedure personally, she said, others had the right to choose for themselves. Abortion opponents hounded her at almost every stop with an intensity seldom experienced by male politicians.
Writing in The Washington Post in September 1984, the columnist Mary McGrory quoted an unnamed Roman Catholic priest as saying, “When the nuns in the fifth grade told Geraldine she would have to die for her faith, she didn’t know it would be this way.”
Douglas Martin in the Times resolutely avoided “communist” and "dictatorship" and “Soviet-backed.” The center was founded “to press for reforms in the church and society.” And: “The Quixote Center achieved particular prominence in its support of the leftist government of Nicaragua in the 1980s, a stance directly at odds with that of the Reagan administration. It raised more than $100 million in humanitarian aid for the Nicaraguan government.”
Lauren Wiseman in the Washington Post highlighted Callahan's “iconoclastic” and “idealistic” ways, but at least suggested he was against “anti-Marxist” rebels: “During the 1980s, he was involved with Quest for Peace, a program run by the Quixote Center that sent aid to Nicaragua and opposed U.S. support to the anti-Marxist rebel group known as the contras.”
The media don't get religion, often portraying intra-denominational struggles within American Protestant churches through a purely political lens, rather than as substantial debates touching on the core tenets of Christian doctrine or ecclesial discipline. What's more, in this political narrative, conservative defenders of Christian orthodoxy are invariably the bullies.
A recent example of this comes in the form of an April 30 New York Times obituary for "Cecil Sherman, Who Led a Faction of Moderate Baptists" within the Southern Baptist Convention.
Times writer Douglas Martin painted Sherman as a reluctant leader of a "moderate" faction that organized itself in a purely defensive posture against conservatives intent on "taking over" the denomination (emphasis mine):